BOSTON -- Earlier this season, Northeastern was a team buried at the bottom of the Hockey East standings. The Huskies were the last team to pick up a win in league play, but have dug themselves out of a gaping hole in recent weeks.
NU's early-season funk is deep in the rear view mirror after it finished a fourth consecutive weekend sweep with Saturday night's 4-2 win over UMass at Matthews Arena.
Sophomore Nolan Stevens scored two goals to pace the Huskies attack in their third straight victory and 12th of the season, while his junior brother John Stevens and defenseman Matt Benning each handed off a pair of assists.
"I didn't think we had the same mentality that we had going into the game yesterday('s 5-0 road win)," Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said. "I thought we cheated it a little bit thinking it was going to be a little bit easier than what it is. In this league, every opponent you play is good and you can't look at records."
The sixth-place Huskies are now 12-13-5 on the season and remain unbeaten in 12 of their last 13 games. NU's last conference loss was in a one-goal affair with Boston College on Dec. 6.
Sophomore Garret Cockerill continued his hot stretch from the NU blue line, scoring his third goal of the weekend at 7:08. Classmate Dylan Sikura fed Cockerill at the left point, where he fired a shot through heavy traffic and past UMass goaltender Alex Wakaluk.
Sikura notched an assist on the first of the Huskies' three power-play goals, extending his point streak to four games. The Huskies scored multiple goals on the man advantage five times this season, but never more than two.
"I thought our power play was excellent," Madigan said. "Our special teams did the job for us. They won the game for us here tonight."
Nolan Stevens' team-leading 12th goal of his sophomore season doubled the Huskies' lead at 11:39, dumping a centering feed from elder brother John past Wakaluk from the low slot.
"We've just been working on reading off each other," said Nolan. "I saw him coming down the boards so I left it for him, and then I just tried to beat my guy to the net. He made a good move on his guy to get loose and just fed it to me."
The Minutemen cut their deficit in half at 15:05 as Anthony Petrella scored the second goal of his sophomore season. Junior Ray Pigozzi fired a shot from the left wing and his shot tipped home just over the goal line past NU freshman Ryan Ruck.
UMass sophomore Maddison Smiley knotted the score at 2-2 at the 5:53 mark of the second period, depositing Joseph Widmar's drop pass high on Ruck. The goal was Smiley's first of the season and just the second of his career.
NU scored the game's final two goals in the latter half of the second and third periods, leading the Huskies to their fourth straight victory over UMass for the first time since 2011.
The younger Stevens secured his third multi-goal game this year at the 13:48 mark of the second. He slid a one-timer through traffic off a great point-to-point feed from Benning on the power play.
"That was a big focus going into tonight's game, just keep it simple and get pucks to the net," Nolan said. "I think we did a good job of being patient, waiting for seams to open up, and being opportunistic when the chances came."
Junior Zach Aston-Reese scored NU's third man-up goal of the evening with 3:03 remaining in regulation. John Stevens got credit for the primary help, dropping a feed back to Aston-Reese in the low right circle to easily finish his tenth goal of the season.
It was not the easiest of wins for the Huskies, but it got the job done. NU controls its own destiny for home ice in the first round of the Hockey East playoffs with just four games remaining.
Closing out a close win is certainly a sign of confidence for a NU team that struggled to do just that in the midst of its 1-11-2 start.
"One of the players said coming into the locker room after the game, 'Hey, not pretty but we found a way to win,' and that's what it amounts to," Madigan said. "Two points are hard to come by, particularly at this time in the season."
NU junior Sam Kurker was called for charging on a hard hit as time expired in second period, but was only assessed a two-minute minor. UMass head coach John Micheletto was ejected from the game for arguing with officials following the play.